Monday, February 13, 2012

Grammy Recap

My resistence to Adele was not an inability to recognize her talent.  "Rolling In The Deep" is about as good as a pop song gets. "Someone Like You," on the other hand, still sounds like your run of the mill song about heartbreak. I find nothing spectacularly original about it, though I guess everyone has the right to get one of those songs out of their system.

It's not that I don't find "Someone Like You" convincing. I don't even dislike it. It's just that a song like that, simple and emotional, should get kudos for standing apart from the usual studio dreck churned out in painful numbers by the embarrassing roster of nobodies that squat all over the charts. It should not be a song that catapults an artist to uncomfortably high, superstar status, as it did Adele. It's a good song. It's not a great song.

That said, I was charmed and even moved by her live performance at last night's Grammys. But again, is that feeling real? Or am I just happy to not be seeing or hearing the Rihannas, Nicki Minajes and Katy "Fireboobs" Perrys? And when we get right down to it, I wonder if everyone feels the same way. That may not be incredibly fair to Adele, but it isn't such an unreal thought.

As expected, I was blown away by Bruce Springsteen. The song gets better and better, and so does he.  But here's a POV from my friend and frequent contributor, Gene Oberto:

Somehow, based on the release of a new video of the already released single, there is a disconnect between the Bruce who writes and performs and the marketing and image department of Bruce, Inc.

Why the need for the second video? It's obvious that the first one was wrong in every sense of the word. It was a fluff shoot to show that the 61 year old "still has it!" An ego shoot of the Boss. It caused  confusion with the song's point, with most MSM critics missing the message. Hence, the second video (which should have been the original) to hit the uninitiated in the ways of Bruce over the head. THIS is what we really meant.

I really think that Landau has lost the message. He sat in the audience and declared he saw the future of R&R. Now he seems to want to continue keeping the vision frozen. We fell for the Bruce performer/songwriter. That is the only image I need. They would be better keeping the private Bruce private and let the performing dervish loose. They will never be able to correlate the multi-millionaire with the blue collar kid from Freehold. That boat sailed in 1986

(George Chakiris?)

Another friend made this very simple and oft-heard comment about the awards:

"It's a popularity contest, not a talent contest."

I was a voting member for about 6 years. I've seen the ballots up close. All the singers and songwriters and bands and musicians that we all love are right there for your taking. And all of those fine people who vote, see those names. Yet somehow, the five nominees for "Song Of The Year" were Kanye West (the record came out in 2010), Adele, Mumford & Sons (the record came out in 2009), Bruno Mars (the record came out in 2010) and Bon Iver.

Looking back at the many year-end, "Best of 2011" lists, I find it confounding that so many records that include so many great songs, once again, go unrecognized.

Tom Waits, Ron Sexsmith, John Hiatt, Nick Lowe, Wilco, Lindsey Buckingham, Garland Jeffreys, Marianne Faithful, The Strokes, Jane's Addiction, Laura Marling, Neil Finn, Warren Haynes, kd Lang, Gillian Welch, Teddy Thompson, and Paul Simon.  You mean none of these people wrote a better song than "All Of The Lights" by Kanye West or "Grenade" by Bruno Mars?

What about "Album Of The Year?"

Foo Fighters
Lady Gaga
Bruno Mars

Is it possible that the majority of Academy thought none of the artists I mentioned made a record as good as these five?

Not even Glen Campbell? Even the MPAA is smart enough to give Oscars to those who might be dying, or even dead. How does a record like "Ghost On The Canvas" get zero mention?

You'd think that I'd get it by now. But I don't.

I was thrilled...over the moon actually that the Rebirth Brass Band picked up the first ever Grammy for "Regional Roots" record. friend Maurice Brown got his first Grammy as part of the Tedeschi Trucks Band, when they picked up "Best Blues Album." It was one of my faves of 2011, even though it's not a blues album. But... oh well.

Finally, it wouldn't be a Burning Wood post if I didn't make an about face on at least one record. I paid some attention to what reader "Robin" had to say about Sir Paul's 'Kisses On The Bottom." Now, I didn't trash the record. Not even close. I just wasn't moved by it...then. I've stayed with it and Robin, you are so right.

Paul McCartney is Paul McCartney for a reason. Last night's live performance of his original "My Valentine" was sublime. Moreover, if "My Valentine" was slapped on to the end of any one of Macca's pop albums, every fan would be reduced to mush. It's an absolutely gorgeous tune, with hints of "And I Love Her" and just about all of the legendary Paul ballads, and I'm afraid not many will notice that, as it sits aside a repertoire of songs you think you don't want to hear.


soundsource said...

is that a picture of some young pop star with a lIttle richard pompadour wig on?

Sal Nunziato said...

It is Bruno Mars, a very entertaining young man.

Robin said...

Thanks Sal. The new Bruce is growing on me too!

Re "Someone" I agree it's not a truly great song, but darn it got me! It's more perceptive than average. Maybe it's her performance, the ache in her voice is true and deep, without being "poor me".

She may not grow up to be Aretha or Dusty, but she's the real deal. You know how some singers sound "emotional" because they are blessed with a throaty or showy voice, or know how to manipulate you with the "catch" in their voice, but they are not really connected to their material? She is connected, I think that's her appeal. I fell for her when I saw her perform it live, her onstage banter struck me too. She's smart and funny. I think she has talent as both a singer and songwriter. Based on the Anderson Cooper interview, it seems she's already grown past the song, I can't wait to see what happens next. BTW, she reminds me of Lulu!

I thought it was one of the better Grammys I've seen show-wise. Bruno Mars is so much fun. Very emotional with Adele, Jen Hudson, Glen Campbell, Brian Wilson (but please everyone stay away from my "Surfer Girl"!), I was very happy to see Bruce join Paul, Joe, etc, on stage. As far as the actual awards well...pretty typical, but I'm happy for Adele.

Les said...

On McCartney's "My Valentine", I'd not heard it before last night and we disagree on performance. Usually, when I hear Sir Paul, I get all gooey inside, the world disappears and I'm transported. I went nowhere last night. I just sat, wondering what he was doing. Why was he sounding like he was? I have gone to youtube and listened to the album version. Paul's voice was there and I loved it. It seems, though, that I am the only person on earth who heard what I heard last night. So...* shrug *.

Anonymous said...

McCartney's album is growing on me too. Among other things, has a great sound, Tommy LiPuma notwithstanding.

Bruce H

charlie c. said...

Congrats to Rebirth!
All I got, truly.
Katy looked great -- did her boobs realy go on fire?!?

steves said...

This is one of those rare times where we disagree. I really thought McCartney was not in prime form on either one of his performances last night. And while it was great to see Walsh and the Boss in the lineup for "The End," all of the soloists (with the surprising exception of McCartney himself) were embarrassingly bad.

And finally, let me say, "Bennis!" (x2)

Shriner said...

I think there's no bigger surprise every year (not) than watching the Foo Fighters pick up yet another Grammy for another album that sounds like the last album.

And I say this as somebody that enjoys the Foo Fighters sound...

I had a big shit-eating grin watching the Beach Boys, Glen Campbell and the McCartney performances (and Bruno Mars -- who's album does nothing for me...) Oh and Taylor Swift is a cute as ever. And Bruce's opening number kicked it off in a big way for me.

Chris Brown, Rhianna/ColdPlay, Katy Perry and Nicki MInaj -- eh.

But, that said, I thoroughly enjoy these shows every single year. They never fail to entertain.

Sal Nunziato said...

I really love the Foo Fighters, but I wasn't overwhelmed by this winning record. It's the "academy's" way of keeping it real, you know?

Anonymous said...

The Grammys were on last night?

Gene Oberto said...

As to Adelle, there is no doubt to the talent and due to the surgery (probably) is learning to use her instrument. I have never seen her perform less than all out and I pray that she is allowed to explore her own inner muse.

That being said, it seemed that from the few videos that weren't either not available because of copyright restrictions or label/artist bans and the critical reviews that this show sucked less than most.

Why, with the music business desperate for ANY positive to help stop the bleeding, would these positive views not be all over you tube and artist web sites? Yes, Bruce and Sir Paul, I'm asking you.

Remember, www. stands for World Wide Web.

Anonymous said...

Sal, I love ya, but I couldn't disagree with you more about Adele. I think "Someone Like You" IS a great song, great performance, and deserves everything it gets.
Original, innovative, and other words regarding such criteria like that have little place or relevance in pure pop music to me.
How, I ask you, is this any different from Dolly Parton's" I Will Always Love you" or Willie Nelson's " You Were Always On MY Mind" ? Or Lennon's "Jealous Guy"? Neither one says anything new, they're plain-spoken as hell, and they merely hit the nail on the head of an emotion we can all feel. You may not feel this song, but I do. I think that question is an irrelevant matter of taste, but what I take issue with is your attempt to negate it's impact be claiming it doesn't say anything new enough for you.
Todd's "Hello It's Me"? ALL of Carole King's stuff? Neither of those discover life on other planets either. Not all music has to be Rush or Dylan. The purpose of pop music, if it has any purpose is to clearly express the feelings we all wish we could express.
Adele does that beautifully on "Someone..." and does it with gorgeous singing, palpable feeling, and unmistakebale heart. IMHO In a moment where Whitney, who sang well but with zero emotion, and wasn't a writer at all, hearing Adele render real heartbreak in genuine fashion stands out ( to me )

From RS:"Tony Bennett is also a fan of this year's big winner, Adele, who won six Grammys last night, including Album of the Year. He compared her to Kate Smith, an American singer with a big voice from a much earlier era. "She's magnificent," he said of Adele. "She's the best British singer I ever heard.""
just sayin'.

That said, I only think the two hits on the album are anything special.

Sal Nunziato said...

To Anonymous,

You love me? Who are you?

You make some good points. I take exception to one in particular:

"Not all music has to be Rush or Dylan."

If you "love me," or at the very least know me a little, you should know that I've never felt that way. I have always been a strong proponent of, as well as a great defender pop music. I'm a little insulted.

I am also not convinced that comparing something a year old to songs written 40 years ago is the best way to defend originality.

Did "Hello It's Me" or "It's Too Late" sound like hundreds of other songs back then?

I conceded and did admit I found "Someone Like You" convincing and did say it was a good song. Yes it's true, it doesn't move me. Not the way "Jealous Guy" did, first in 1971 and again in 1980.

If this song moved you, then job well done by Adele. But I know many people who were moved by Bob Carlisle's "Butterfly Wings." Doesn't make it a great song.

Dave said...

Just for the record...the Grammys did bestow its lifetime achievement award to Glen Campbell this year. And it was gratifying to see Campbell in good form, albeit not performing one of my first 50 choices of song.

I did think the funniest moment(s) of the night was Glen Campbell, marveling at the vocal response of the audience, twice referring to them as the "Norman Luboff Choir."

Anonymous said...

Sal ( I know you well enough to say "love ya" maybe not "love you" )
I wasn't defending Adele's originality, I was disputing the requirement for a touching love song to have to show any particular originality.
I would still pose the question, how is it any different from Nothing Compares To U, I Will Always Love You ( But I Only Know You Well Enough To Love Ya ) or any Carole King plain-spoken love song? They may appeal to you more, but they, I'd argue, were possibly MORE like everything in their time than Adele is now.
I know you well enough to know you love the Black Crowes, and in a world with The Faces, Frankie Miller, and a hundred other bands, you don't ask them for originality, just feeling. Adele has feeling. I also understand you don't argue the song has no reason to exist, or even that it's bad. I argue that it deserves it's Grammy's for the exact reason that it won them all. It moved millions of people, across many genre fan bases.
I meant no insult to your taste, or your affection for pure pop, power pop, etc. I know you're open minded, wide-ranging, and open-eared. I'm merely positing that you ask for an originality you don't expect from Blues, New Orleans music, Folk, or Country. Not saying you have to like it, I'm just saying lack of originality isn't a concern when it comes to a song that stands out wonderfully and deservedly in a world where people can say " Kelly Clarkson" without shuddering.
Please take no offense. I mean none. You're great Sal, and I love the blog.

Sal Nunziato said...

I'll argue all those points, Anon, when you tell me who you are.

Sal Nunziato said...

Ok I lied.

No one is showering the Black Crowes, or anyone (prior to last night) from New Orleans with Grammys.

I won't back down on my love for the Crowes or for any of the music from New Orleans I've championed on these pages. But I also have these pages to back me up. I've never claimed any of these people deserved any more than some recognition.

I don't care if anyone loves the Crowes. What gets me is when people dismiss ANY music without a fair go at it. The Crowes, Hall & Oates, and so many others get trashed because of one or two songs and accompanying videos on MTV. That is their career--Maneater!

Whatever it is you see and hear in Adele is valid. But you did also say this:

"That said, I only think the two hits on the album are anything special."

Fantastic. 6 Grammys wasted on a singles act.

Sal Nunziato said...

And Anon, I truly appreciate the respect shown here. I love the debates. This is what I hope to see more often on these pages.

We don't have to agree, but it's worth it when we don't in such a fine fashion.

buzzbabyjesus said...

The Grammy's have been irrelevant for decades, just like commercial radio. Who gives a shit?

Shriner said...

Bah. Regardless of what anybody thinks... Toto IV is a *great* pop record. And I would never have realized that without it winning the Grammy

elizabeth said...

Most years there's only one or two reasons, like a favorite performers appearance or nomination that gets me to watch the grammies. This year, with Bonnie Raitt, the Foos, the Beach Boys, Glenn Campbell AND Bruce, it was a shoo-in. Really enjoyed Bruno Mars' performance - wonder how many at the younger age range knew whose style they were channeling? - and, surprisingly liked Katy Perry (but not the blue hair, not her best look).

I can see Robin's connection of Adele and Lulu, her look last night made me think Jackie DeShannon. And while almost anything would be preferable to me than Rhianna, et al, I was happy she won for the things Dave Groh said their win represented - talent, not production.

But what did you think of the attempts by Maroon Five & Foster the People to sing Beach Boy classics? Painful to my ears. It was a nice moment to see the look exchanged between Glen Campbell and the Beach Boys. He fared better with Blake Shelton singing his material and his performance brought to mind your earlier post about his concert you recently attended.

I feel I'm pretty tolerant about different music forms and realize people like Kanye West, et al, have a different audience who probably do feel he had a better song than the artists you mentioned. That said, the dj portion was like an axe in my head.

The biggest shock to me was how much I loved Paul McCarthy's performances, especially the new song. I've not really been a fan of the solo Paul and unimpressed by several tv performances over the years. But last night (and your persistent support) may get me to go back and give another try to some of those albums. The finale was probably better before Bruce, Joe & Dave joined in, as steves suggested. Still, it was great to watch them together.

FD13NYC said...

I'm very much in agreement with bbj. Who cares about award shows anyway. The Adele CD is not that good either. It's all about her heartache and breakup with her boyfriend, boo-hoo. Practically all the songs are in an annoying minor key with loud beats. To me, honestly, she sounds like Melanie (Lay Down Candles In The Rain) Safka, listen close. I'm not saying that she didn't deserve any Grammys, maybe one. But who do you give them to anyway. Stuff that's force fed down the throats of the public, so it becomes popular. Nothing hardly worth listening to that's of any merit.

Remember, this is all IMHO. I wasn't going to jump into this, but I had to. Now let's all play nice and listen to the music that we like and enjoy.

And to Anon, who are you? You have a lot to say without divulging your identity.

Marsupial said...

Last night, I watched the Grammys with my wife and our 9 y/o daughter, sat through the whole 3.5 hours, and actually enjoyed them! First time since probably 1985 that I did that. I left a message on FB to the effect of "I appreciate the different styles and genres tonight - please shoot me!" But I feel better about it now. I wanted to get my daughter out of her RadioDisney bubble and see Bruce, and see Foo, and see the Beach Boys and Glen Campbell, along with her favorites like Rihanna and Nicki Minaj. My wife got to hear Macca do various things with lots of guests. I got to... see everything, and I was good with that for the first time since I was a little kid. So... good job, I guess? (Or, bad job growing old, I guess.)

Anonymous said...

a little late to the discussion, I know, but...
Count me among those who really liked - no, loved - Someone Like You by Adele. I thought her delivery was outstanding; the lyrics were classic "heartbreak"; and the backing instrumentation just perfect. Her singing absolutely moved me. As in all music, your mileage may vary.

Also, referring back to previous discussion (last week, maybe?) about the Bob Dylan tribute album...I loved her live version of Make You Feel My Love.

Finally, regarding Adele, it's been really nice for this mid-fifties male to totally enjoy an artist liked by my wife and teen daughters. I guess I'm starting to sound like a real fan-boy, huh?

BTW, learned the arpeggiated chords to Someone Like You on my guitar...impressed the hell out of my 17yo daughter. If only for that reason alone, thanks Adele.



JB said...

Nice show, but they should dispense with the phoney baloney awards and just give the artists more time to play.

By the way, speaking of armfuls of Grammys, whatever happened to Chrisopher Cross?

PS: Andy P.'s. 'Funk Pop a Roll' says it all.

Jerry Lee said...

I'm with bbj, I haven't given a shit about the Grammys in years. If the people I like even get nominated, it's mainly for the awards they give out before the show starts. I was watching "The Walking Dead" until it ended at 10 est. I'm tired of all the overblown productions too, save them for the Superbowl halftime show.

Maybe you're right Sal, the voters may have tired of the stupid videos and the offstage drama, and voted for someone talented who seems to be pretty down to earth. You know, like early Whitney.